Hat History for Derby Day

Since the dawn of the 20th century, the American hat has seen a looser style of stitching. Back when baths and showers were less common, dirt and dust were everywhere, and, at least by today’s standards, hairstyles were not much to talk about, men and women wore hats just about everywhere. In addition to hair protection, hats also served as a fashion statement about the wearer. Yet, around the 1950s, there was a hang up of hats in epic proportions.

Some say the turning point in the business was during the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. Up until that point, every president prior to him had worn a hat on the first day of work. Still, others claim that the booming business of Ford and the intertwining interstates caused the decline of derbies and trilbies. While head space in both trains and busses had ample room for hats, automobiles required hats to be removed before departure, making it more a hassle than a hat.

This is not to say that all hats have left the ring. Just this year, on the day after the presidential inauguration, around 500,000 people participated in the Women’s March on Washington. Of those who were present in the largest American protest in history, thousands wore pussyhats: pink, handmade hats worn in support of women’s rights everywhere.

But some hats show more personality than political statement. Cinema has bestowed characters like Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes, Walter White, and Oddjob with renowned hats that, to this day, have yet to lose their acclaim. Truly it is a wonder how much character a hat can add to an outfit.

However, hats are often considered unnecessary accessories. With shirts, shoes, pants, plaids, coats, and cufflinks, it is a real concern that we’re already wearing too many hats in the realm of fashion. And yet, looking at the aforementioned characters, it is surprising that most Americans have fallen back on the baseball cap as their dominant choice of hat.

A 2016 study by Statistic Brain revealed that some 44 million baseball hats are sold in the U.S. every year. To clarify, this is only Major League Baseball caps! While I’m sure that cowboy, pirate, trucker, and bucket hats all sell in America, as well as abroad, the baseball cap has become the all-star of the American league.

Hats are certainly not comparable with what they once were. With hairstyles being so prominent, hoodies being so convenient, and hygiene being so standard, it would seem that hats have lost their magic. But, just like any other fashion fab, it takes only one committed individual to change the trend. So, the next time you go out, pull a rabbit out of your hat! You might be surprised at the wonders it can work.

-Sean

(Photo courtesy of Divine Danette)

 

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